Colombo, Jaffna, Poetry, Vavuniya

Unshed Tears

“These are Elephants, Those are Tamils”1
-words from a friend.

Baby Elephants- dearly beloved elders were killed before their tender eyes
Baby Elephants-arms, legs, teeth shriveled with the pain of the bullet
Baby Elephants- loose wrinkled skin hangs off starving, haunted frames
Baby Elephants-left over remnants of humanity scraped up from
The scorching earth of Vanni

Yes, they are Tamil.

Baby Elephants-no newspapers flare up for them in bold headlines
Baby Elephants-no person steps into the streets to demand their well-being
Baby Elephants-no believers in Ahimsa to speak for them, the intellectuals are mute
Baby Elephants-no one to beat their chest wailing “aney” “apoi”2 at their fate

Yes, they are Tamil.

you know
that your mothers
lie dead.
breasts heavy with
the swollen pain
of hardened milk.

you know
that your fathers
lie dead
who stomped the earth
trumpeting intensely
standing guard.

Whom are you the Beloved of now?
you know
no countrymen will
offer poojas to the gods
with flowers, incense or lamps
for you.
no countrymen will
make vows
at the Dalada temple
for your  tomorrow.

Baby Elephants-you whose eyes shed tears at every little hurt
Why do you not cry now?
as you lie curled up,
fallen in a heap
here and there.
in an orphaned corner
like a foetus.
in an abandoned camp.
an unknown world.
Behind Barbed Wire.

Translation by Francesca Bremner

1 Refers to an incident in which the President of Sri Lanka donated baby elephants to the temple. The baby elephants were forcibly removed from their mother. This caused a controversy. The poet contrasts this to the apathy at the plight of Tamil orphans in the detention centers of the north.

2 terms of anguish